Trip Report - Red Mountain Basin 8/23 - 8/29

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Trip Report - Red Mountain Basin 8/23 - 8/29

Post by westmatt » Tue Sep 22, 2020 8:39 pm

I've been hemming and hawing about posting this, but what the hell. If you don't want to read another trip report, you can ignore it, I guess.

Day 1:

Left Maxon on Sunday a.m. Slogging through the lodgepole all day was kind of a drag. Finally reached a bare piece of rock past the Hell For Sure trail junction, and made camp. Was uncomfortably warm until 1:30 a.m., when we got some light rain, which continued on and off until about 5 a.m., finally making sleep possible. We made a dry camp, after tanking up at Post Corral creek (thanks Grampy for the advice!).

Day 2:

Broke camp, shaking the rain off of our tents, and departed for Disappointment Lake. A short way in, the rear person in our party was surprised by the wet nose of a husky, loaded up with a pack, but with no person in sight, and it prompty turned and ran back down the trail. There is not a bit of water between Post Corral and Fleming Lake, so if you're gonna make a similar trip, fill everything up at Post Corral. Took an extended break at Fleming Lake, which is pretty, though not super memorable. Continued on, finally feeling good after crossing the ridge at about 10000' between Fleming and Disappointment. Stopped to collect a couple of mylar balloons - this must be the spot where they congregate after being released in Fresno. Passed the Meadow Brook Trail junction, and ascended the low granite ridge above Disappointment, which was completely deserted. We had originally decided to camp at the unnamed lake between Disappointment and Hell For Sure Lake, but Disappointment was so pretty and we were tired enough that we decided to make camp at Disappointment. The evening was pretty, and after a few pictures and a bit of fishing we turned in.

ImageHFS/Meadow Brook junction by Matt Fox, on Flickr

Day 3:

We left our camp at Disappointment, and with our day packs loaded up, made our way up to the unnamed "boomerang" shaped lake. This lake is a beautiful spot, and would make a great camp spot. We caught probably a third of the identical brook trout in the lake, and then made our way up over the low saddle below HFS Lake, and continued fishing at HFS, seemingly catching the identical fish. Two of us decided to hike up HFS Pass - I didn't want to miss out on some views - and were rewarded with views north towards Evolution Valley, and south to Mt. McGee. I have a lot of respect for whoever takes saddle stock over that pass, it's pretty steep, and I can't imagine sitting a horse while ascending or descending. We hiked back down the HFS Trail until we could see Disappointment again, and rejoined the other half of our party back in camp. The solitude, the quiet, and the stillness made for a memorable evening, and after dinner, some more pictures, and a little libation, we turned in.

ImageVernal pools above Disappointment Lake by Matt Fox, on Flickr

ImageView towards Evolution Valley from Hell For Sure Pass by Matt Fox, on Flickr

ImageHell For Sure Lake, seen while climbing HFS pass by Matt Fox, on Flickr

ImageDusk at Disappointment Lake by Matt Fox, on Flickr

Day 4:

Originally planning to camp at Blackrock Lake, we headed that way, retracing our steps from the previous day for a ways. Blackrock is very beautiful, forested on the northwest side, and stark and barren on the southeast side, with talus coming down from the peaks above. We decided to press on, crossing the outlet, and navigating the talus below the ridges between Blackrock and Bigshot lakes. The granite here was impressive, with lots of polish and some beautifully radiused slabs, beautiful remnants of time which in my opinion dwarf any achievement of man. We continued our descent, skirting the north side of Big Shot Lake, gorgeous, and then Little Shot, less austere, but still beautiful. Moving on, we ended up at Devil's Punchbowl, absent of anyone, and made camp. We finally ran into the mystery dog again, and finally its guardian, but were alone in our camp. The ridge between Devil's Punchbowl and the Jigger Lakes below is a fine spot to enjoy the evening light, with views north towards Florence Lake, east to HFS pass, and southeast towards Bench Valley, and some impressive lodgepoles, gathering the last light of the day.

ImageTalus field below Black Rock Lake by Matt Fox, on Flickr

Day 5:

One of our party decided to navigate the ridges overlooking Devil's Punchbowl and Big and Little Shot Lakes (which in hindsight I unfortunately decided to skip), and the rest of us spent the day catching what seemed like hundreds of brook trout in Big and Little Shot, and Devil's Punchbowl. The day was spectacular, and it felt good to have no destination, no goals, no responsibilities. After seeing the pictures from the heights above Devil's Punchbowl, though, I was envious and wished I had done the same hike. The evening light this night was just unbelievable, and I spent quite a while taking pictures on the northwest ridge above Devil's Punchbowl, alongside the Meadowbrook Trail. I was unsure of whether my decision to bring a little bourbon along would be worthwhile, but it was proved correct this evening, as I enjoyed night creeping up the slopes and over the peaks. I am not sure why altitude sickness got me this night, but I had a miserable night, and the only thing that kept me sane was listening to Steely Dan's "Aja" on a loop. Need to look into what meds are available - this is the second year I have had problems like this.

ImageRidge near Lucifer's Pass by Matt Fox, on Flickr

ImageDevil's Punchbowl brookie by Matt Fox, on Flickr

ImageEvening Lodgepole by Matt Fox, on Flickr

ImageHigh elevation driftwood by Matt Fox, on Flickr

ImageView toward's Lucifer's Pass, John Muir Wilderness by Matt Fox, on Flickr

Day 6:

We broke camp and headed southwest, trying (sometimes successfully) to follow the Meadow Brook Trail. We took our final look at Devil's Punchbown, and then descended towards the Kings River. More slogging through lodgepole forest, with occasional views of the nearby meadows, and after a bit we were at the gauging station. The water-carved granite here is just beautiful, and it made a nice backdrop for our lunchtime break. After our respite, we continued along the river, and then followed the trail north towards Post Corral Meadow again. We made camp at Post Corral Meadow, deserted except for ourselves, and after dinner we walked around the building, inspected the old gear around it, including an old cast iron cement mixer, and wondered about the building's purpose, and why it was now abandoned. I saw a weasel in the meadow, who was unafraid of me and seemed curious as to what I was doing there, and we were buzzed by some saw whet owls at dusk, who also seemed curious about the intruders in their territory.

ImageMeadow Brook / Blackcap junction by Matt Fox, on Flickr

ImageWater-worn granite, N. Fork Kings River by Matt Fox, on Flickr

ImageGauging station @ N. Fork Kings River by Matt Fox, on Flickr

Day 7:

The hike out was uneventful, more lodgepole (sigh), and nothing of any import to note. There were a mess of people at the trailhead, a definite anticlimax.

By the end of the week, the Creek Fire was raging, and made us thankful for our fortunate timing. Sad to think Cressman's on 168 is gone, after 50 years of driving by it.

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Re: Trip Report - Red Mountain Basin 8/23 - 8/29

Post by balzaccom » Tue Sep 22, 2020 9:50 pm

That's a lovely area. Thanks for posting the TR. Brings back some nice memories.

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